Psychological sequelae of medical and surgical abortion at 10-13 weeks gestation

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2005 Aug;84(8):761-6. doi: 10.1111/j.0001-6349.2005.00728.x.


Background: Although not much research comparing the emotional distress following medical and surgical abortion is available, few studies have compared psychological sequelae following both methods of abortion early in the first trimester of pregnancy. The aim of this review was to assess the psychological sequelae and emotional distress following medical and surgical abortion at 10-13 weeks gestation.

Methods: Partially randomized patient preference trial in a Scottish Teaching Hospital was conducted. The hospital anxiety and depression scales were used to assess emotional distress. Anxiety levels were also assessed using visual analog scales while semantic differential rating scales were used to measure self-esteem. A total of 368 women were randomized, while 77 entered the preference cohort.

Results: There were no significant differences in hospital anxiety and depression scales scores for anxiety or depression between the groups. Visual analog scales showed higher anxiety levels in women randomized to surgery prior to abortion (P < 0.0001), while women randomized to surgical treatment were less anxious after abortion (P < 0.0001). Semantic differential rating scores showed a fall in self-esteem in the randomized medical group compared to those undergoing surgery (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Medical abortion at 10-13 weeks is effective and does not increase psychological morbidity compared to surgical vacuum aspiration and hence should be made available to all women undergoing abortion at these gestations.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Abortifacient Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Abortion, Induced / methods
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pregnancy
  • Probability
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vacuum Curettage / methods*
  • Vacuum Curettage / psychology


  • Abortifacient Agents